Unless you are more hardened to wonderful sights than I am, you will almost fancy yourself in some enchanted spot. You seem to stand on the glass of a gigantic kaleidoscope, over whose sparkling surface the sun breaks in infinite rainbows. You are ankle-deep in such chips as I’ll warrant you never saw from any other woodpile. What do you think of chips from trees that are red moss-agate, and amethyst, and smoky topaz, and agate of every hue? That is exactly the sort of splinters that cover the ground for miles here, around the huge prostrate trunks — some of them five feet through — from which Time’s patient ax has hewn them. Charles Fletcher Lummis wrote these words in 1892.
Nowadays you will not find such a magical lanscape in Petrified Forest. Park Service estimates the precious wood chips disappear - meaning are stolen by visitors and unethical entrepreneurs - at the staggering rate of a ton per month. One can buy them just outside the park for a few dollars a chip. Lummis was aware of the problem but optimistic about the solution: _The inevitable vandal has blown up a few of these superb stone logs with giant-powder, to get some specimens for his contemptible pocket; but there are thousands still spared, and the forest is now so guarded that a repetition of these outrages is not probable. _
Too bad he was also putting the site in jeopardy, and not just because he popularized its existence: I broke a specimen from the heart of a tree there, years ago, which had, around the stone pith, a remarkable array of large and exquisite crystals; for on one side of the specimen—which is not so large as my hand—is a beautiful mass of crystals of royal purple amethyst, and on the other an equally beautiful array of smoky topaz crystals. One can also get magnificent cross-sections of a whole trunk, so thin as to be portable, and showing every vein and even the bark. There is not a chip in all those miles which is not worthy a place, just as it is, in the proudest cabinet.Petrified wood chips are no longer ankle deep. They don’t even fully cover the ground. Several more years and there may be nothing left but few logs to remind us of the wonderful sight fallen pray to greed. Visit it before it’s gone.